The church and the state should be two segregated entities, completely independent of each other and neither intervening nor influencing in any form. There are many who believe this as it is granted by the constitution of many countries, including the United States of America. However, there is a contrarian view that supports the unification or some kind of correlation between the church and the state. It is necessary to highlight that this debate is not confined to the church and state. It is the church in countries that have historically been Christian societies. Likewise, Israel or Turkey may have the same debate but pertaining to Jews or Muslims respectively.
Before we delve into the pros and cons of separation of church and state, let us clearly state that the constitution of the United States doesn’t allow the state to interfere with religion, neither enforcing a religion or rejecting a religion and the church or any other religious entity for that matter has no function in the executive, legislative and judicial functions of the country.
Separation of Church and State Pros
1. Fundamental Right to Practice Any Religion
In countries that are founded on the basis of religion, one is not allowed to practice any religion other than the national religion. Countries like the United States that have been founded on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity, which are democracies and secular societies allow every citizen to have faith in any god, to practice any religion and to indulge in any way of worship, as long as it doesn’t put rights of fellow citizens in jeopardy. In other words, the state cannot say if one should follow Christianity, be a protestant or a catholic or if one must go to church at all. One may be an atheist.
2. Allows Public Schools to Function Free of Any Religious Influence
Public schools or convents that are predominantly a missionary to spread Christianity have often become tools of influence. Kids have been influenced to think and feel in specific ways. While education has not been compromised in most cases, the influence of religion at every step of growing up has often been questioned by modern Americans. If the state was to get intertwined with religion or if the church and the state have a correlation, then all public schools will try to propagate Christianity. That will not be acceptable to a large section of the populace that practices other religions.
3. Work in Tandem of Being Correlated
State and church working in tandem or being correlated will also lead to discrimination. Those in the good books of the church will get privileges from the state and vice versa. Those who don’t follow the religion will be discriminated against. The church will be able to influence the state and vice versa, solely on the basis the religion. The country will become a less desirable place for people of other religions.
Separation of Church and State Cons
1. Religious Teachings Are Confined
There is only one shortcoming or rather a demerit of separating the church and the state. Religious teachings will be confined to homes or religious leaders, priests and personal learning. Schools, the state or any institution will not be able to educate anyone on religion. While there can be accounts of history having references to religion, there cannot be any religious curriculum or course on religion. This may not be ideal for those who particularly want to study or get to know about various religions or one in particular. For conservative or highly religious families, this may not be very desirable.
Separation of Church and State
It must be noted that the separation of church and state doesn’t in any way mean that religion has no place in public life or that one must not practice one’s faith. It also doesn’t imply that any one religion is being favored or that the influence of the church is being negated. This simply means that the state will not interfere with any religion, will not enforce or prioritize a religion, wouldn’t facilitate the promotion or rejection of any religion.
It is a statute that helps to establish and thereafter maintain a secular society where everyone is an individual or person first, a citizen later and whatever religion one practices is not the identity that should matter to the outside world.
History has proven that whenever a state has interfered in religion or has not been separated from the church, mosque or temple, majoritarianism has taken over and ethnic and religious cleansing has followed. Separation of church and state has been granted to Americans and in many other countries at the time of framing the constitution, through amendments or by additional legislation. There are countries that don’t have segregation of religion and government.